Perfume: The Story of a MurdererFeature Film |
An underrated and unsettling literary adaptation.
A film considered so inaccessible to American sensibilities that it barely received a US theatrical release, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is German director Tom Tykwer's sweeping adaptation of Patrick Suskind's revered 1985 novel. Filmed in English with a mostly British cast, the movie, set in 18th-century France, features an engaging narrative, top-notch acting, and beautiful cinematography. This is hardly a stuffy historical drama, though: the story focuses on an awkward peasant boy with an extremely heightened sense of smell who becomes an unrepentant serial killer. As the gifted young antihero, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (played with fittingly strange intensity by Ben Whishaw), embarks on his quest for the ideal scent, he crosses paths with a has-been Italian perfumer (gamely portrayed by Dustin Hoffman), and begins making impressive concoctions on his own. However, Grenouille's quest for olfactory perfection leads him down a dark and gruesome path. Following him along this unnerving road, viewers aren't fed manipulative hooks that might elicit more empathy towards him, which makes for a fascinating story, one that Tykwer imbues with lush visuals and keenly stark emotion. The result is a suspenseful--and sorely overlooked--period piece that is unsettling, but consistently riveting.